HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY EDUARDO DEL BUEY,
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 2 JULY 2013
SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS ON SIDES TO AVOID CIVILIAN CASUALTIES, ALLOW HUMANITARIAN ACCESS IN HOMS, SYRIA
- The Secretary-General is following with grave concern the escalating conflict in Syria, in particular the developing situation in Homs, where heavy fighting has been raging in recent days.
- An estimated 2,500 civilians remain trapped in Homs. The Secretary-General calls on the warring sides to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties and to allow immediate humanitarian access, as well as opportunities for trapped civilians to leave without fear of persecution.
- He reminds all combatants of their obligations under international law and underscores that those responsible for any atrocities will be held to account. The Secretary-General expresses his concern over threats to seize two Shiite villages in the northern province of Aleppo.
- The Secretary-General calls again for stopping the supply of arms to all sides and appeals to the parties in Syria and their supporters to focus instead on the search for a political solution that remains the only way out of this tragedy.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General and Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi continue to work to have a “Geneva II” conference on Syria take place as soon as possible.
BAN KI-MOON MAKES FIRST VISIT TO ICELAND AS SECRETARY-GENERAL
- The Secretary-General is in Iceland today, in his first visit there as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
- He met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament. In his remarks to the members of the Committee, he said that the United Nations has gained significantly from Iceland's support in critical areas such as international criminal justice, human rights, gender equality and humanitarian assistance.
- The Secretary-General also visited a geothermal power plant and gave a speech at the University of Iceland. In his remarks, he said that Iceland is a global leader in renewable energy, giving the world a glimpse of the possibility of a sustainable, low-emissions future.
- Later today, the Secretary-General will meet with the President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.
EGYPT: SECRETARY-GENERAL, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE STRESS RIGHT TO PEACEFUL PROTEST
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that it is following with great concern the extremely tense situation in Egypt. It conveyed a strong message of solidarity and support to the Egyptian people.
- The Human Rights Office urged the Egyptian Government to continue to make every effort to protect the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful protests and demonstrations. It regretted the deaths that have occurred in Egypt since Sunday, and stressed that any perpetrators of attacks against peaceful demonstrators, who are found to have used excessive force, should be held accountable.
- In a note issued on Monday, the Secretary-General called for all parties to uphold the law, while respecting the right to demonstrate peacefully. This right, in particular, must be extended to female demonstrators, given the concerns over the high number of reports of sexual assault.
- It is crucial at this time that Egyptians find the way to resolve differences through democratic means. Peaceful dialogue and non-violence are the keys to restoring stability and moving Egypt’s transition forward.
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL REAFFIRMS U.N.’S COMMITMENT TO AFGHANISTAN DURING FIVE-DAY VISIT
- The Deputy Secretary-General wrapped up a five-day visit to Afghanistan today and reaffirmed the UN's commitment to the country’s future as it undergoes its political and security transition next year and beyond.
- The Deputy Secretary-General held a range of high-level meetings and also visited the province of Kandahar. He met with President Hamid Karzai, government ministers, the parliamentary speakers, election and human rights officials, as well as representatives from political parties and civil society groups. In those meetings, he said he conveyed that the UN is committed to continued partnership with Afghanistan, provided that this is the wish of the Government and the Afghan people.
- The Deputy Secretary-General said upon his departure that he was encouraged that there is a strong consensus among all actors, from the President to civil society groups, that Afghanistan’s achievements of the past decade must be protected as it advances through its political, security and economic transition processes.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY WELCOMES RENEWED COMMITMENT BY PAKISTAN TO HOST AFGHAN REFUGEES
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today welcomed Pakistan’s renewal of its commitment to provide protection and safety for the more than 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in the country.
- Pakistan remains the world’s largest refugee hosting nation, having generously hosted millions of Afghan refugees since 1979.
- Pakistan announced last week at a tripartite meeting with the Government of Afghanistan and the Refugee Agency that it would extend refugee cards for Afghans, which had been set to expire on 30 June.
- The Agency said that this extension will help end uncertainty among Afghan refugees in Pakistan over their status.
EARTHQUAKE OF 6.2 MAGNITUDE STRIKES INDONESIA
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that an earthquake of magnitude 6.2 struck Indonesia’s Aceh province today.
- The national disaster authorities have confirmed two dead and some 150 injured in the Bener Meriah and Aceh Tengga districts.
- The Office is coordinating with the local authorities and agencies to monitor the situation.
DISASTER RISK REDUCTION ENVOY ON VISIT TO TONGA, SAMOA AND FIJI
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, is in Tonga, where she met with Prime Minister Siale ‘Ataongo Kaho, as well as with high-level ministers to discuss the country’s progress towards disaster resilience through investments in infrastructure, early warning system, public awareness and education.
- Tonga is the first country in the Pacific region to integrate disaster and climate risk in a common framework for planning and action.
- In Samoa, where preparations for the 2014 International Small Island Developing States Conference have begun, Ms. Wahlström will visit Cyclone Evan-affected communities and will meet with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi to discuss the critical role of Pacific leadership in the run up to the 2015 disaster risk reduction agreement.
- In Fiji next week, Ms. Wahlström will attend the Joint Meeting of the Pacific Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Roundtable 2013, where an integrated ‘roadmap’ will be discussed by Pacific leaders.